CBD for Opiate Withdrawal May Be the Perfect Match to Ease Symptoms

cbd for opiate withdrawal

Posted on March 29th, 2021

The opiate crisis has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Big pharmaceutical companies, distributors and doctors are being blamed for creating the epidemic and are being held liable for their actions. However, this has done little to alleviate the problem or help those who have become addicted to opiate medications. Finding a safe but effective solution to counteract withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse is critical. Cannabidiol or CBD for opiate withdrawal may offer some relief.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs that are produced from opium which is extracted from the poppy seed. Opiates are not to be confused with opioids. Opioids include opiates but also synthetic drugs that are created in a lab and have similar properties and effects as opiates. There are a wide range of opiates available on the market. The most common opiate derived medications include morphine, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin and buprenorphine.

How Do Opiates Work?

Opiates work in very much the same way as the pain relieving chemicals that the body naturally produces. When the body feels pain, it produces certain neurotransmitters that communicate with receptors in the brain to send signals to reduce pain. Opiates similarly bind with these receptors and therefore produce the same pain relieving properties.

poppyWhy Are Opiates So Addictive?

Opiates don’t only relieve pain but also have euphoric effects or produce a feeling of getting “high”. This is because the neurotransmitters that the opiates mimic are also responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. For instance, opiates stimulate the pleasure and reward centers in the brain along with producing pain relieving effects. They do this in the same way the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin do.

However, the body generally only produces small amounts of these neurotransmitters so as not to overstimulate these areas of the brain. On the other hand, opiates overstimulate these centers resulting in the feeling of euphoria. This often results in the brain and body craving the sense of euphoria and therefore craving the opiates.

Another factor that plays a role in opiate addiction is that more and more of the drug is needed to experience the sense of euphoria. Opiates are therefore “habit-forming” which is the foundation of developing a drug addiction. The need to use more and more of the drug to experience the same effects leads to substance abuse and overdose. Opiate abuse can have serious side-effects apart from addiction and can be fatal.

One major benefit of CBD for opiate withdrawal is that cannabidiol itself is not addictive. Its potential benefits do not lead to the need for more and more of it, so it may be an ideal supplement for recovery.  

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

Withdrawal from opiates include a wide range of symptoms. Thus, they can vary in severity from one individual to another. However, the symptoms are often flu-like and are rarely fatal. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal syndrome include:

– Dysphoria: a profound sense of unhappiness or being unwell.

– Insomnia or sleeplessness.

– Dilation of the pupils.

– Piloerection: goose bumps or hair raising.

– Excessive yawning.

– Muscle aches and spasms.

– Lacrimation: excessive tears or weepy eyes.

– Rhinorrhea which is a runny nose.

– Fever and sweating.

– Cravings.

– Mood swings and irritability.

– Anxiety.

– Increased pain sensations.

– Nausea, retching and vomiting. 

– Diarrhea.

Of these symptoms, it is the vomiting and diarrhea that are of major concern. Excessive or persistent vomiting and diarrhea result in dehydration and increased levels of sodium in the bloodstream. This can result in elevated heart rate which can lead to heart failure. 

Where fatalities do occur from opiate withdrawal, the cause of death is often listed as brain hypoxia that results from heart failure. Brain hypoxia is a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal is currently being treated with synthetic opioids – most commonly methadone and buprenorphine. These opioids have a similar effect as opiates but without the serious side effects. However, there are still serious side effects to using opioids. Furthermore, using these medications to treat the symptoms may even prolong rehabilitation.

Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest that treating opiate addiction with opiates is very effective. It doesn’t prevent relapse or reduce the intense cravings that are often part of opiate withdrawal. In addition, many addicts prefer not to use similar drugs as part of their recovery process. Understandably so because the new opioids have a similar effect on the brain as opiates.

Woman holding Tanasi CBD CapsulesCBD For Opiate Withdrawal

There are a number of different ways in which CBD for opiate withdrawal can be beneficial. Comparing the benefits of CBD to the symptoms of opiate withdrawal may identify the different ways in which the cannabinoid can ease withdrawal symptoms.

Pain Relief

CBD interacts with the CB-1 receptors that form part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are primarily located in the gastrointestinal tract where 90% of the serotonin is produced in the body. Therefore, CBD aids in serotonin production and the pain relieving effects that are attributed to this chemical.

Most addicts recovering from opiate addiction describe an increase in pain sensations or more intense pain. This is a withdrawal symptom where the brain is trying to convince the body that it is in pain in order to get the opiate that it is craving. The production of serotonin from the interaction of CBD with the endocannabinoid system can help reduce these intense pain sensations.

Studies also show that CBD may reduce swelling or inflammation. Inflammation places pressure on nerves which results in pain and is commonly due to an immune response from the body. CBD has a regulatory effect in the immune system to inhibit an immune response to reduce inflammation and therefore pain.

Anxiety And Cravings

Many recovering opioid addicts describe increased feelings of anxiety when they go through withdrawal. This feeling comes from the brain’s craving for the opiate substance. The feelings of anxiety contribute to the cravings and therefore often results in relapse.

A new study has found that patients using CBD for opiate withdrawal experience less intense anxiety and cravings than the control group taking a placebo. Participants in the study watched videos that included drug paraphernalia and drug abuse to stimulate cravings. The patients taking CBD reported less anxiety and cravings while watching the material and afterwards. Also, patients reported less intense cravings for up to a week after using three doses of CBD.

This is a significant finding as it means that CBD does not only help reduce anxiety and cravings while going through withdrawal but can also prevent a patient from relapsing. 

Nausea And Vomiting

As mentioned above, nausea and vomiting are the more serious symptoms of opiate withdrawal and are often the cause of fatalities. This is as a result of extreme weight loss, dehydration and elevated heart rate that persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause.

Fortunately, CBD has effective antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties. This may be one of the most effective benefits of CBD for opiate withdrawal. Once again, the sensation of nausea and therefore vomiting are a result of brain signals. The neurotransmitters that are primarily responsible for controlling nausea and vomiting include acetylcholine, dopamine, histamine, substance P and serotonin.

The body releases histamines as part of the defense system. Because CBD helps regulate and inhibit this immune response, it also decreases the sensation of nausea. 

The anti-nausea effects of CBD can also come from the regulation of somatodendritic 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus. This basically results in less 5-HT to inhibit the reaction of the 5-HT receptors in the forebrain where the sensation of nausea happens.

CBD can therefore effectively reduce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting during opiate withdrawal and prevent the serious side-effects of dehydration and increased levels of sodium in the blood which are the leading causes of death from opiate withdrawal.


Insomnia or difficulty sleeping is a common side-effect of opiate withdrawal. CBD assists many people in falling asleep and can increase sleep duration and quality of sleep. This effect results from a reduction in cortisol in the body.

Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases as a result of stress and anxiety. The potentially anxiety relieving effects of CBD can reduce cortisol levels and therefore allow for better sleep. The body also produces cortisol to wake a person in the morning. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to decrease cortisol production and therefore increase the duration or sleep.

CBD also increases serotonin and dopamine production which decrease pain and result in feelings of calm and relaxation. These effects of CBD can therefore also help produce better sleep. 

While CBD does not have a direct sedative effect on the body, the regulatory function that it plays when interacting with the endocannabinoid system can result in better sleep. Insomnia in opiate withdrawal comes from the anxiety, cravings, pain sensations and other withdrawal symptoms. By relieving these symptoms, CBD can aid better sleep.

Conclusion: CBD for Opiate Withdrawal

Although scientists still need more data, CBD for opiate withdrawal seems to be very helpful so far. If you go down the list of withdrawal symptoms, CBD has at least some potential to help with most of them. From pain and nausea to anxiety and insomnia, CBD fits the bill as a great therapeutic option. If you are struggling with opiate addiction, you should consult a doctor to take the most appropriate actions. CBD alone may not be the cure-all you need, but it should at least be a helpful addition to the plan you make with your doctor.

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